Splinter (U.S., 2008) 

This minimalist torture porn is kind of like an Eli Roth splatterfest scripted slightly up to grad-student level. Setting is some unnamed old-growth forest in the boondocks (filmed in Oklahoma). A camping couple, a mild-mannered biology PhD (Paolo Costanzo) and his incongruously sexy girlfriend (Jill Wagner), are taken hostage by a misunderstood white-trash desperado (Shea Whigham) and his junkie girlfriend (Rachel Krebs). Then all four run afoul of a fungus-like organism that rapidly and insidiously spreads by contact with the black sliver-like spines that sprout on its victims, who crunchily transform into lurching, marionette-like zombies. Aside from some B-movie scientific mumbo-jumbo about its feeding habits (which you may or may not even hear properly, thanks to mumblecore dialogue), there’s no explanation for the hideous contagion — just a no-frills overnight battle for survival in an isolated gas station besieged by the living dead (or bits of them). Viewers who don’t want to see amputations and mutilations should to stick with Marley & Me. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, and 9:15 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18. Find a longer version of this review online at clevescene.com.

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